Why You’re Getting a New Medicare Card & Scams to Watch Out For

Why You’re Getting a New Medicare Card & Scams to Watch Out For

Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 a couple years ago with the aim of decreasing Medicare beneficiaries’ vulnerability to identity theft. They aim to do this by replacing Social Security numbers with new Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBI) on Medicare cards. This welcome change is a major undertaking involving various steps and a set timeline. As fraudsters like to take advantage of changes and possible confusion as a way to scam people, it’s important to stay informed of what these changes mean and how they will be carried out over the next several years.

 

This law requires the removal of Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019. As this initiative gets under way, all Medicare beneficiaries will be assigned a new MBI and be sent a new card. Because there are currently over 60 million Medicare beneficiaries, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail the cards out in phases over time, between April 2018 and April 2019. This means that beneficiaries will probably all receive their cards at different times, although everyone will receive their new card no later than April 2019.

 

As this is an enormous change, CMS had defined a transition period where CMS will accept either your Medicare number or the new MBI from you, your providers, plans and others. The transition period is from April 2018 though December 31, 2019.

 

The new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier will have the following characteristics:

  • The same number of characters as the current Medicare number (11), but will be visibly distinguishable from the current Medicare number
  • Contain uppercase alphabetic and numeric characters throughout
  • Be unique to each beneficiary (e.g., husband/wife will have their own MBIs)
  • Occupy the same field as the current Medicare number on all transactions
  • Be easy to read and limit the possibility of letters being interpreted as numbers (e.g., alphabetic characters are uppercase only and will exclude S, L, O, I, B, Z)
  • Will not contain any embedded intelligence or special characters, and
  • Will not contain inappropriate combinations of numbers or strings that may be offensive.

 

Starting now and throughout the entire transition period, stay alert to possible fraud and scams relating to the new Medicare cards. Family members and caregivers should also be aware and on the lookout for any potential scams.

  • Remember, CMS and Medicare will never contact you by phone or email to ask for personal information relating to the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Any such contact is a scam.
  • The new Medicare cards will be issued at no charge. Anyone asking for money or payment of any fee for the new card is a scammer. Be extra cautious of anyone asking for access to your checking account to pay a fee for the new card.

 

If you have any questions, call our Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.